John's Journal
Even In Defeat, Maple Grove Coach And Team Know What’s Important 6/6/2014
NORTH MANKATO -- In the midst of tournament mania -- as every team and every athlete and every fan is hoping and dreaming to celebrate glory in the form of a gold medal -- a very special scene took place Friday afternoon during the state softball tournament at Caswell Park.

The team was the Maple Grove Crimson, who a few minutes earlier had lost a heartbreaking contest to Lakeville South in the Class 3A state championship game. The Crimson were great sports, shaking hands with and congratulating the South Cougars, accepting their second-place medals and smiling as they held up the second-place trophy.

But you just know that losing had to sting. The Crimson had experienced a dream season, bringing a record of 22-3 into Friday’s game and taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. That’s when South scored twice to take a 3-2 lead that held up the rest of the game. The Crimson had their chances in the bottom of the seventh, getting runners to second and third with two outs before the game ended with a strikeout.

Heartbreak? Well, sure. But when coach Jim Koltes spoke to his players afterward, as they sat quietly on the outfield grass, his message was one of congratulations and pride. Every word, every syllable was absolutely and totally positive.

“You didn’t quit,” the coach said. “You played to the end and you gave us a chance to win the game. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but I’m proud of you and I’ll be proud of you forever.”

Then he asked for “put ups” … meaning the opposite of putdowns. The assistant coaches and players took turns, raising their hands and offering positive comments on specific things that teammates had done during the game; running out groundballs and beating the throws to first base, making tough fielding plays, working hard in the dugout and keeping the energy up.

“We out-cheered them, that’s for sure,” Koltes said with a smile. And as the Crimson posed with their second-place trophy, everyone grinned. What a great way to end a great season.


--Kasson-Mantorville finished the year as the only undefeated team in the state, defeating LeSueur-Henderson 3-0 in the Class 2A title game. As usual, KoMets junior pitcher Maddie Damon was dominant in giving up only one hit, a bunt single to the first batter she faced, Veronica Sinell. Damon struck out 11 (as she did in the two previous games at state) and finished the season with a state-record 1,260 career strikeouts.

Here’s what might be the most amazing statistic of the entire softball season: the KoMets (28-0) won by shutout 20 times, gave up one run in seven games and allowed two runs only once, in a 4-2 win over Zumbrota-Mazeppa on May 6. They gave up nine total runs, only five of them earned runs.

--New Ulm Cathedral took home the Class 1A state title with a 3-1 win over New Life Academy in a matchup of two powerful small-school programs.

Cathedral has now played in seven championship games and won all seven, with previous crowns coming in 1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005 and 2007. New Life won state titles in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 while finishing second in 2007 and 2013.


The state track and field championships began Friday at Hamline University in St. Paul, and will conclude Saturday. Most of Friday’s events were prelims, but finals in half of the field events were held as well as the 3,200-meter races.

On the track, Stillwater sophomore Eli Krahn made headlines by winning the Class 2A boys 3,200. A year ago he won the 1,600 at state.

--In a very competitive 2A girls 3,200, Emily Castanias of Chanhassen was the winner, followed by Shaelyn Sorensen of Tartan in second. The next to finish were sisters Bethany and Megan Hasz of Alexandria.

--Minnetonka’s Mia Barron repeated as the 2A girls long jump champion, leaping 19 feet, 1½ inches. She owns the state of 19-10.

--Terrance Bowers of Hopkins repeated as the 2A boys triple jump champion.

--New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva senior Carlie Wagner – a basketball star who has signed with the University of Minnesota – won her second 1A high jump title in three years.

--Kasson-Mantorville’s softball victory wasn’t the only title for the KoMets on Friday. Junior Taylor Wiebke won the girls high jump, leaping 5-9. She set the state record of 5-11 earlier this spring.

--Blaine junior Alexandra Williams, who set the girls 100-meter hurdles state record of 14.21 in her section meet, led Friday’s state prelims in 14.22.


--Blake junior Charlie Adams repeated as the Class singles state champ, defeating Ty Misialek of East Grand Forks 6-1, 6-0 in the finals.

--Nick Beaty of Wayzata won the 2A singles title with a 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-2 win over Toby Boyer of Forest Lake.

--The 1A doubles crown went to Ben Ingbar and Taylor Parr of Blake, who defeated Jake Duxbury and Austin Wong of Breck 6-2, 6-4.

--In 2A doubles, Charlie Adkins and Rory Calabria of Maple Grove defeated Anthony Rosa and Carter Mason of Eden Prairie 6-1, 6-3 in the title match.

--To see photos from some of Friday's events (including a spectacular photo gallery from state track by Minnesota Prep Photo), go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 569
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,456
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Pitcher Is Worth A Thousand Words … And Strikeouts6/5/2014
NORTH MANKATO -- Thursday was a day for the hurlers at the state softball tournament, with dominating performances from the pitching circle providing a dominating theme at Caswell Park. And through two rounds of games Thursday, the setup for Friday’s three state championship contests was completed.

The title matchups look like this: LeSueur-Henderson vs. Kasson-Mantorville in the Class 2A contest at 1 p.m.; Lakeville South vs. Maple Grove for the 3A crown at 1:30; and New Ulm Cathedral vs. New Life Academy in 1A at 2 p.m.

A large contingent of fans was on hand to see Kasson-Mantorville junior ace Maddie Damon, who made headlines earlier this season. She came into the tournament with a state-record 1,227 career strikeouts, and she broke that record 21 times Thursday. The KoMets beat Hermantown 4-1 in the quarterfinals, with Damon striking out 10. In the semifinals, Damon hit a grand slam, tossed a one-hitter and struck out 11 in a 10-0, five-inning victory over Hawley.

--Also in 2A, Rockford sophomore Bria Majeski tossed a one-hitter in a 3-0 opening-round win over two-time defending state champ New Ulm.

--LeSueur-Henderson sophomore Carlie Brandt totaled 21 strikeouts in two games, a 4-2 win over St. Anthony Village and 1-0 blanking of Rockford.

--Cherry senior Kacey Herring very nearly tossed a perfect game in a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Browerville in Class 1A. The only Browerville baserunner came with two outs in the seventh inning when Herring hit a batter with a pitch. The next batter, Crystal Pearson, singled for Browerville’s only hit. Herring got the final out on a strikeout, her 15th of the game. Browerville pitcher Makenna Hegseth gave up only three hits.

--In Class 3A, Lakeville South senior Kylie Stober had 21 strikeouts in victories over Orono and Anoka.

--Also in 3A, Maple Grove junior Sydney Smith took a no-hitter into the seventh inning vs. North St. Paul and gave up two hits as the Crimson advanced to the championship game with a 4-1 victory. She struck out 17 and gave up four hits in two wins Wednesday.


Maple Grove junior Kea Anderson belted a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning, putting the Crimson ahead of North St. Paul 3-0. As Kea returned to the dugout, she exited the dugout quickly, found her mom sitting just outside the fence and they shared a hug.


The wildest game of opening day came in the Class 1A consolation bracket when Kenyon-Wanamingo beat Norman County 13-12. K-W’s Ellyn Beulke set a single-game tournament record with seven RBIs, setting the mark with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh. She also tied tourney records for most home runs in a game (two) and most hits in a game (five).

The game’s total 25 runs tied the tournament record, set in 1983 when St.
Agnes beat Rockford 13-12.


--The boys state tennis tournament continued Thursday with singles and doubles competition. Semifinals and championship matches will be played Friday.

--The state track and field championships get underway Friday at Hamline University in St. Paul. The bulk of Friday’s events are preliminaries, and the meet will conclude Saturday.

--Next week? On the docket are state tournaments in boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls golf and baseball. The final games on the 2013-14 calendar are the three baseball state championship games scheduled for June 14 at Target Field. Let’s keep our weather fingers crossed.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 569
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,318
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Luke Moorhead Beat Cancer, Now Plays Top-Level Tennis6/4/2014
Watching Luke Moorhead play in the state tennis tournament might seem like a run-of-the-mill endeavor for those who are unaware of the Mound Westonka sophomore’s history. Moorhead defeated Foley sophomore Zach Kantor at No. 1 singles in Wednesday’s Class 1A fifth-place team match, and both players gave maximum effort in a grind-it-out contest that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

Moorhead is ranked second among Class 1A singles players, and 1A singles and doubles competition will be held Thursday and Friday at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in south Minneapolis. The top-ranked singles player is Blake junior Charlie Adams, the defending state champ who defeated Moorhead in last year’s semifinals.

Moorhead (pictured) and Adams, who frequently practice together, could meet once more in Friday morning’s semifinals.

“The next two days will be interesting,” Luke said Wednesday. “I could have a good semifinal match with Charlie, although I don’t want to look ahead, past two tough opponents ahead of me. But it will be an exciting two days.”

That Luke is able to play tennis is a pretty exciting proposition, as well. He was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia when he was 14 months old and underwent chemotherapy and other treatments until being given a clean bill of health at age 5. But in his case, “clean bill of health” might be a little misleading.

Side effects of those long-ago cancer treatments mean Luke’s organs are enlarged, he has limited hearing in one ear, and he undergoes surgery every two years to – as his mother, Tricia, explained – “clean up his organs.” The next round of surgery is a month away.

“He has to work extra hard to be out here and it has taken him a while to adjust to those kinds of things,” Tricia said. “He had a great coach when he was young, early on, who really worked with that kind of stuff and kind of got him on the right path. He has to work, this doesn’t come easy. He has to put the time in.”

Luke first qualified for state as an eighth-grader, playing doubles with Arend Turner. He finished fourth in singles a year ago. His introduction to tennis came while he was undergoing cancer treatments; Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota holds an annual event called the Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic, benefitting cancer research.

After learning about the event, Luke’s parents decided to attend. That was the first time Luke saw the game played, and he immediately picked up a racket.

“It is his passion,” his mother said. “He fell in love with the game and started playing tennis based on that tournament.”

Luke said he doesn’t remember much from his cancer treatments, which is one of the benefits of going through it at such a young age.

“I didn’t really know what was going on,” he said. As for things like hearing loss and enlarged organs, his attitude is what you might expect from a determined and dedicated athlete.

“There are still a few side effects, but they’re minor,” he said. “I don’t care about that because I survived. I’ll take the side effects.”

Boys Team Tennis Championship Results

Class 1A
Title Match/ Blake defeated Rochester Lourdes 5-2
Third-Place Match/ Breck defeated Thief River Falls 7-0
Fifth-Place Match/ Foley defeated Mound Westonka 4-3

Class 2A
Title Match/ Wayzata defeated Minnetonka 5-2
Third-Place Match/ East Ridge defeated Elk River 4-3
Fifth-Place Match/ Mounds View defeated St. Cloud Tech 6-1

*Schools/teams John has visited: 545
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,180
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
District Football Is Set For 2015 Season And Beyond6/2/2014
Football has been a major topic at meetings of the MSHSL board of directors for a long time, specifically a problem that many football teams deal with on a regular basis: finding enough games to fill the eight-game regular-season schedule.

At Monday’s board meeting, a completely new format for regular-season football was approved. The plan, called District Football, will reorganize teams into 18 districts across the state with the goal of eliminating the issue of filling schedules.

To see lists of districts and schools, click on “District Football 2015-16, 2016-17” on the MSHSL home page. Scroll to the bottom of that story and click on the link titled “District Lists and Maps.”

Here are some important points about District Football …

--It will begin in 2015. That means nothing will change this fall (2014).

--District football will have no impact on the postseason. Current section alignments will continue for section playoffs and the state tournament.

--This affects football only and no other sports.

--Districts will have between 12 and 28 teams, many with teams from different classes.

--Districts are labeled by names instead of numbers: West, South, Big Southeast, East Central, Mid State, etc.

--In most cases, districts will have the option of setting up sub-districts within the district. This means there will be plenty of scheduling flexibility.

--Schools in each district will meet to produce schedules for each team in the district. The MSHSL will not be involved in scheduling.

--In most cases, traditional rivalries will continue if the schools choose to do so. Each school with a football team filled out a form prior to the districts being created, and they were encouraged to list the rivalries they would like to continue.

MSHSL associate director Kevin Merkle worked on the plan, along with a 10-member committee that placed schools into districts. It was unanimously approved by the MSHSL activity directors advisory committee before the board of directors gave its unanimous approval Monday.

“Everyone needs to keep in mind that this is just a step in the process of developing actual schedules for our member schools,” Merkle said. “Some districts have a wide range in size and geography, but once the districts determine their sub-district alignments, most of the enrollment and geographical issues will be solved.”

In other news from Monday’s meeting …

--The board approved adding Academic Decathlon to the umbrella of MSHSL activities. The MSHSL will be a presenting partner of Academic Decathlon, as it is with robotics and clay target shooting.

--The board approved a proposal to have home schools pay the same membership/activity fees that all other members schools do.

--In discussing implementing a transgender policy, no decisions were made. Members asked that more information be provided before the next board meeting in August.

--The board did not approve a recommendation from dance team, which wanted to add an additional level of competition in which sections cross over to advance the “best” teams to state, not necessarily by geography. After discussing the request, no board member made a motion for a vote.

--The board approved a request from Nordic skiing to have two teams per section advance to state instead of the current one team.

--The board approved a slight change in Class 1A boys diving, allowing one more diver per section to advance to state.

The board also …

--Approved the hiring of an additional IT staff member at the MSHSL office.

--Honored Elaine Taggatz, who is retiring as state coordinator of gymnastics officials.

--Recognized board members whose terms ended Monday: Laurie Esau, Mike Kolness, Mike Manning and John Hamann.

Sauk Rapids-Rice principal Erich Martens was elected board vice president for 2014-15. He will become president in 2015-16.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 527
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,110
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
District Football Plan Tops Agenda For MSHSL Board Of Directors 5/30/2014
Some major decisions could be made Monday when the MSHSL board of directors meets at MSHSL headquarters in Brooklyn Center. The board will take on a busy agenda, with football probably drawing the most interest.

The board is expected to hear a proposal for the structure of district football, which will begin in the 2015 season. A committee from around the state has been holding meetings to put together district lineups, from which members of each district will create their own schedules.

District football, which has been adopted in order to help schools fill their eight-game regular-season schedules, will have no impact on the postseason. Teams will remain in designated sections for playoff games. The board may approve the plan or request that changes be made.

Elsewhere on the agenda, election of board officers for the 2014-15 school year will be held. The vice president/president-elect for 2014-15 is St. Charles activities director Scott McCready. Three board members are candidates to be the next vice president/president-elect: Montevideo activities director Bob Grey, Jackson County Central softball coach Shelly Hotzler, and Sauk Rapids-Rice principal Erich Martens. Public member Steve Eklund of Stanchfield is the current treasurer and will remain in that position in 2014-15, with no other board members running.

The board will also consider adding Academic Decathlon as an MSHSL activity, will consider adopting a transgender policy, consider approving speech material for 2014-15, consider a change in policy for home schools and consider a proposal to add to the MSHSL staff.

The board will hear several advisory recommendations regarding winter activities, which are …

--Dance Team: Coaches are looking to add an additional level of competition where sections cross over to advance the “best” teams to state, not necessarily by geography.

--Nordic Skiing: Asking that two teams per section advance to state instead of the current one team. The plan will reduce the number of competitors who qualify as individuals by two.

--Diving: In boys Class A, they would like to advance one more diver per section to state.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday. To follow the developments in real time, follow @MSHSLjohn on Twitter.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 527
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,110
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn